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Tom Dugga’s Notebook Feb. 2019

ReportersNotebook copyIG REPORT HAS TONS OF ERRORS…. LIKELY, MAYBE, KIND OF

One thing that popped out at me while digesting the IG report on corruption in Methuen was the fact that it never actually concluded anything. It didn’t really rule anything and contained words like “Likely illegal” and “may be” against the law. People who are looking at this report as a conclusion to an actual investigation have to realize that it is nothing like that at all. The IG took “publicly available” information, (some of which is incorrect), never interviewed the police chief or former mayor, and compiled that information for a “report” based on what was in the public arena. We are hoping it is “likely” that a grand jury is convened and “maybe” those involved in illegalities on the city side are held criminally accountable for their actions. The IG report did make some silly recommendations, like recommending that the council consult with their attorneys (as if they haven’t been doing that). Seems to me that the IG “likely” mailed it in on this report and could have done so much better… like an actual investigation.

KANNAN BLAMELESS
Buried in the Inspector General’s report was a paragraph exonerating current city council chairman Jen Kannan. According to the IG, the previous city council (which Jen was a member) illegally voted for the superior officers contract because then-councilor Jajuga voted on it while his son was a superior officer, and councilor Vidler voted on it while her husband was being promoted to sergeant. The IG suggests that the councilors with conflicts did not have to vote because councilor Kannan only had an appearance of a conflict -as her son is a cop but not a superior officer. The IG says that, had she disclosed her appearance of a conflict, she could have voted on the superior officers’ contract and there would have been no need for Jajuga and Vidler to illegally invoke the “Rule of Necessity” to vote on the contract anyway. But, the IG didn’t take into account the fact that the council needed six votes. Since Kannan would have only been the fifth vote on the contract, at least one other councilor with a conflict would have had to vote anyway. Nonetheless, Kannan recused herself from the vote and didn’t have to. At least we have ONE councilor who aired on the side of caution and recused herself even when she didn’t really have to.
SOLOMON’S SALARY – With all the animosity surrounding the Methuen police situation, some have wrongfully attacked Chief Joe Solomon after an irresponsible member of the press reported his salary as nearly half a million dollars a year. The fact is, Solomon’s salary, according to his contract, is approximately $375K a year. But he is only being paid $250K of that due to the fact that Mayor Jajuga refuses to pay him what the contract calls for. What’s more, $125K of Solomon’s pay is due to partial payments from the city after the chief won a lawsuit for being wrongfully fired.
So, when people say Solomon is making more than the president of the United States, they are ignorantly dismissing the fact that Solomon’s “salary” is supplemented by lawsuit payments the city owes him.

CAMPAGNONE OUT OF CONTROL
You have to love Methuen City Councilor Joyce Campagnone. She is a wonderful person who does a lot for veterans and the elderly, and I hear she also really loves puppies. But, when Campagnone is acting as city council chairman (in the absence of chairman Kannan) she is often confused, abrasive, abuses her power, and is woefully undereducated about Robert’s Rules of Order, City Ordinance, and council procedure. At one point last month, once councilor talked about “back room deals” being made and Joyce went volcanic. She screamed at the top of her lungs that “there are no backroom deals here” and then called the offending councilor “Out of order” and would not let her speak. NO back room deals? Is she kidding? The Methuen City Council is ALL ABOUT back room deals. The real problem here is that there are always people like Joyce to run interference or create distractions any time someone starts talking about the real problem with Methuen politics; corruption. I think it’s time that councilors are allowed to talk about whatever they want at council meetings whether it offends Joyce, Jen Kannan or anyone else. In fact, last month Chairman Kannan ruled Councilor Jessica Finocchiaro out of order and followed up by saying she was no longer allowed to speak for the rest of the night. WOW! How dare she? Jessica Finocchiaro – like every other elected official – serves the public, not the council chairman. They have every right to speak for their constituents. The mere fact Kannan did that, and that no other councilor objected, says a hell of a lot about their philosophy on the first amendment and the constitution. What’s most odd is that when Ryan Dugan (a member of the public) was thrown out of a meeting for expressing HIS free speech, Councilor Saba went on a rant about the chairman silencing people. It was outrageous! It was uncalled for! It was simply WRONG! Not so, however, when it was Jessica Finocchiaro. Weird huh?

METHUEN’s NICK DIZOGLIO ANNOUNCES RUN FOR REELECTION
Methuen School Committeeman Nick DiZoglio appeared on the Paying Attention! Podcast last month to announce he is running for reelection. In a one hour interview, DiZoglio defended his position on accepting the retirement of faux superintendent Judy Scannell, parking fees for students, the $4M overspent by the schools last year and a lot more. To watch the interview you can go to the video gallery of my personal Facebook page, or search for Paying Attention Podcast on YouTube.

METHUEN RESTAURANT WEEK
The Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with AFC Urgent Care in launching their annual Methuen Restaurant Week. Scheduled for April 7-13, Restaurant Week is organized by the business community to encourage consumers to visit the many different restaurants, bakeries, pubs, and eateries that call Methuen home. Many of these businesses offer patrons special promotions or discounts during the week. For more information, please visit www.MethuenRestaurantWeek2019.com

WHEN THE PRESS GETS THE RUNAROUND – LAWRENCE CITY COUNCIL TAKE NOTE
Last month the Mayor of Lawrence decided to conceal all crime calls in the city by encrypting the police scanner. That means members of the public now have no oversight on the police and have no idea what’s going on in their neighborhoods. It also means the Lawrence police cannot communicate with other law enforcement agencies if another disaster happens like the Columbia gas explosions.

After a respectful conversation with the Mayor on this matter I was assured that the encryption was not to conceal anything and was done purely for “officer safety”. I was also assured that if I wanted copies of any radio calls after the fact, they would be made available to me.

Well, that just didn’t seem to sit right with me. So … to ease that feeling that I was being played, I submitted a public records request for the four hours of radio transmissions prior to the Columbia Gas explosions back in September.

Should be easy right? Find the file on the computer, put it on a USB drive, and leave it at the front desk. Everyone’s happy. Tom’s nagging feeling that this is about concealing things from the public would be debunked – and we all go on our way…. right?

NOT SO FAST…… Instead, I got a letter from the police department claiming I had to pay more than $450 so that a cop could go through the radio calls and censor things they didn’t want me to hear. So much for public transparency and “officer safety”.

Since the tapes I requested were prior to scanner encryption, and all the information on those tapes had already been broadcast to the public, this looks more like the new operating procedure for the city to withhold public information through outrageous fees that most Lawrence residents could never afford. Not only does this violate the state’s public records law (MGL Ch. 66) it leaves even the most die-hard police supporter like myself, thinking the cops now have too much power and not enough civilian oversight.

Here’s the best part. The recordings of radio calls I was seeking from the Lawrence police are already publicly posted on-line on RadioReference.com, uncensored and FREE. So why the runaround? It’s a good question, one that members of the Lawrence City Council should be asking out loud. Does a community like Lawrence really want to be a city with ‘secret police’ who track your every move, but won’t let the public have oversight of their routine day-to-day calls in your neighborhoods?

The Dan Rivera administration is actively working against public oversite of police, concealing crime calls, making public records out of reach for 90% of Lawrence residents through outrageous costs, and putting cameras in your neighborhoods to track your every move and can read a candy wrapper a half block away. All the while, telling the public with a smile that “you have nothing to worry about” and “this is all about officer safety.” Now we all know those are lies.

LYONS ELECTION BAD NEWS FOR LIBERAL REPUBLICANS
If there was ever any doubt that the core base of the Massachusetts Republican Party (MAGOP) is socially conservative to the extreme, the election of Former State Rep. Jim Lyons as Chairman of the MAGOP has now put those doubts to rest. Lyons was by far, the most conservative member of the legislature for nearly 14 years. What’s more, Lyons replaces a liberal republican Kristen Hughes, who pulled the state party to the left on issues like gay marriage, transgender bathrooms, and abortion. Lyons, by contrast is pro-life, against gay marriage, against pandering to transgenders, opposes higher taxes, and has long railed against the corruption on Beacon Hill, including in his own party. With Lyons at the helm, you can look for socially conservative candidates to challenge liberal republicans in next years’ primary, as Lyons’ goal is take back the Republican Party for conservatives. We are excited to see Jim at the helm of the MAGOP as he has been a strong advocate for public transparency and rooting out corruption. Let’s just hope he can gain some success at the ballot box in a state that is to the left of Vladimir Putin.
MERRIMACK RIVER WATERSHED COUNCIL BACKS SEWAGE BILLS
The Massachusetts Legislature has just started its 2019-2020 legislative session.
Three bills have been filed that call for sewage treatment plants to alert the public whenever sewage is dumped into the Merrimack River.

This dumping of sewage is called a Combined Sewer Overflow, or CSO. It commonly happens during heavy rainstorms, when stormwater enters sewer pipes and creates more volume than the wastewater treatment plant can process. Last year, over 750 million gallons of CSO water was released into the Merrimack — the largest amount since 2011.

Two other bills related to Merrimack River pollution have also been filed; one that would create a study commission, and one that would require Massachusetts sewage plants to have backup power generators.

The Merrimack River Watershed Council says they are glad to see so much attention is being placed on the CSO issue.

“We spent much of 2018 working on a major public education campaign that included public forums, newspaper, TV and radio interviews, social media postings, and many meetings with sewage plant operators and local, state and federal officials. What started as an uphill battle has changed into a groundswell of concern, support and action.

What’s happening at the Massachusetts Statehouse? Here’s a look at what’s been filed:
An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters
This is essentially a refiled and updated version of a comprehensive bill that passed the Senate last year, but was not taken up in the House. The bill calls for sewage treatment plants to notify the public within 2 hours of a Combined Sewage Overflow. The public will be notified by email, websites, or similar means. It also requires sewage plants to do a better job tracking how much sewage is released, and requires the state to maintain more comprehensive public records of CSO incidents. This bill applies to all rivers in Massachusetts that experience CSOs — including the Merrimack, Connecticut, Charles, Mystic, and Taunton rivers. The bill was filed by Sen. Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville, and state Rep. Linda Campbell, D-Methuen.
An Act relative to notification of potential water pollution in the Merrimack River
This bill, filed by newly elected state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, calls for the creation of a “flagging” system along the Merrimack River. The state will create a color-coded flag system based on the level of CSO pollution in the river. The flag that reflects the current warning level will be flown at well-used public access points, such as boat ramps. The state will also create a “mobile notification system” that people can subscribe to find out what flag is being flown. This kind of alert system is used in other parts of the country.

An Act to create a Merrimack River District Commission

Filed by Sen. DiZoglio and state Rep. James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, this bill would create a commission to review the health of the Merrimack River and recommend ways to address problems. The commission would include state and local officials, as well as a few environmental non-profits including the Merrimack River Watershed Council. The commission would be required to produce a report within one year of its founding.

An Act requiring reserve electric power at wastewater treatment facilities
This bill, proposed by Rep. Campbell, would require sewage treatment plants have a back-up generator onsite in case of electrical failure. This bill is in direct response to a power failure on Oct. 30, 2017 at the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District that caused the plant to release untreated sewage into the Merrimack.

An Act relative to combined sewer overflow
Filed by Rep. Kelcourse and state Rep. Leonard Mirra, R-West Newbury, this bill would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish regulations regarding public notification of CSO events. The bill does not contain any specific guidelines, but rather calls upon the department to use its own judgment, in concert with other state agencies and municipalities.
There are 4 sewage treatment plants in the Merrimack River watershed that would be subject to these bills — Haverhill, greater Lawrence, Lowell and Fitchburg. The other 2 plants in the Merrimack watershed that have CSO events — Nashua and Manchester — would not be impacted because they are in New Hampshire. So far this year, no bills have been filed in the New Hampshire legislature regarding CSO notifications.

WILSON MUSIC SERIES: Ensemble Chaconne. – The Jean C. Wilson Series closes its 33rd season with Ensemble Chaconne on Sunday, Feb. 17th, at 4 pm at the Unitarian Church, 26 Pleasant St., Newburyport. Called “a powerhouse of great playing” by Classical Voice of North Carolina, Ensemble Chaconne returns to the Wilson Music Series with a concert of early French music. The Jean C. Wilson Music Series is named for one of the founders and the director of the music series for 29 years. Now, under the auspices of the First Religious Society Unitarian Universalist Church, the Music Series typically offers three or four concerts held during the winter months. Suggested donations are $20, $10 for seniors, children and students free. For more information about the concert go to frsuu.org/jean-c-wilson-music-series or call 978-465-0602 x401.
DCU to Host Job Fair at its Chelmsford, MA Operations Center

DCU, CHELMSFORD JOB FAIR – Digital Federal Credit Union, better known as DCU, is hosting a Job Fair for Full and Part-Time Entry Level positions in their Account Services, Call Center, and Collections departments on Tuesday, February 12th from 3 to 6 p.m. at its Chelmsford, MA Operations Center located at 297 Billerica Road.
Onsite interviews will be conducted.

If you have Call Center experience, Customer Service experience, are computer proficient, and/or have prior credit union/banking experience – DCU might just have a position for you. DCU, New England’s largest credit union, is unlike any place you have ever worked. In the first year of employment, DCU offers three weeks’ vacation, a competitive salary, a generous bonus program, 401K plan with 100% company match up to 7%, tuition reimbursement, a student loan payment assistance program, and much more.

Additionally, DCU offers more unique employee benefits that include: free seasonal snacks, coffee and soda, casual dress, daily raffle drawing for tickets to sporting events and concerts, and that’s just the beginning. For further information about the job fair and other career opportunities, please visit www.dcu.org/careers or email careers@dcu.org.

BANK OF AMERICA SUPPORTS GLCAC’S FUEL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
LAWRENCE – Bank of America has partnered with the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. to help keep residents impacted by the gas fires warm this winter.

Bank of America recently donated $50,000 to support GLCAC’s fuel and heat assistance programs.
GLCAC also received a $250,000 grant from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to help low-income residents who heat with natural gas.

GLCAC will provide funding to residents who qualify for the federal LIHEAP fuel assistance program, but would otherwise not receive financial help due to limited funds, and also those who don’t qualify for the program but make less than 80 percent of the state median income. GLCAC will also use the grant to help residents weatherize their homes.

The grants come in the wake of the Sept. 13th gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley that left thousands of residents and businesses without gas service for heating, hot water and cooking.
GLCAC’s fuel assistance is available to help pay a portion of winter heating bills for income-eligible households in Lawrence, Methuen, Andover, North Andover, Reading and North Reading.
For more information, call (978) 681-4950 or visit the LIHEAP program at www.glcac.org.

VALLEY PATRIOT BASH! – Put April 5th in your calendar now! The Valley Patriot will be holding our 15th Anniversary BASH scholarship and award night at the Firefighter’s Relief In, 1 Market Street in Lawrence. Each year we honor police officers, firefighters, veterans, and give out college scholarships to local students trying to get to college. If you are interested in donating to our scholarship fund or would like to buy tickets give us a call at (978) 771-4091 or email us at valleypatriot@aol.com.

LEGAL DEFENSE FUND – It’s no secret that Methuen Mayor Jim Jajuga is suing us, and he hired a multimillion-dollar law firm to try and bankrupt us by lawsuit. We have set up a GoFundMe page on line for those who want to contribute so that we can pay our lawyers to fight yet another 1st amendment lawsuit. Your contribution can help us stay in business! Please donate at gofundme.com/valley-patriot-legal-defense-fund

CLADDAGH ROAD RACE

Join us on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 11am for the World famous Lawrence Claddagh Barry Kara 4-mile race! Hosted by the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence at 399 Canal Street corner of Amesbury St.

The online registration fee for the single race is $40.00 (plus processing fees). Shirts to all entrants, famous race course, post-race party, and entertainment!
This is the second race and the crown jewel of the Wild Rover Series; Haverhill – Lawrence – Lowell.

VETERANS SERVICES OFFICERS HONOR REP. LINDA CAMPBELL
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell was selected as “Legislator of the Year” by the Massachusetts Veterans’ Service Officers Association and presented with the award at their annual legislative luncheon at the State House. The luncheon serves as an opportunity for Veterans’ Service Officers to meet with legislators regarding issues important to them in the upcoming session.

In her remarks, Representative Campbell focused on teamwork and thanked Speaker DeLeo for his many years of leadership in setting a high bar for the care of our Veterans and for focusing on legislation that matters in Veterans’ day-to-day lives. She also highlighted the critical role of Veterans’ Services Officers in our cities and towns.

“VSOs are at the heart and soul of what we do to support our Veterans,” noted Representative Campbell. She commended VSOs for helping Veterans navigate the difficult process of obtaining assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Typically, a Veteran in need must apply over and over again to get help from the VA. I have seen this play out personally many times,” Representative Campbell said in a statement. “It is all too frequently both a slow and exhausting appeal process even for those most acquainted with the system. One can understand why a Veteran, especially a Veteran with service-connected health issues, could never navigate the system successfully without the help of our VSOs. But I know from personal experience, and our VSOs know, that you never give up. Whatever it takes, if you have to appeal, you keep on appealing. You do not compromise.”

POLICE & FIREFIGHTER OF THE YEAR AWARDS
For the 57th year, the Exchange Club of Lawrence will recognize the outstanding service of our community’s finest; Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians from Andover, Lawrence, and North Andover, the communities served by the Exchange Club of Lawrence, as well as paramedics from Lawrence General Hospital will be honored at a dinner on February 13th at the Doubletree Andover Hotel, sponsored by Wheelabrator Technology, North Andover, Inc.
This year, Miss Massachusetts, Gabriela Taveras will sing our National Anthem.
This year’s honorees include:
Andover Fire Department : Deputy Chief Scott Gibson, Lt. Brian Wright, FF Michael Uttley, FF Ryan Beirne,
FF Stephen Stabile, FF/EMT Brian Decourcy, FF/EMT Andrew Loonie, FF/EMT Jonathan Booth, Lt. Barry
Thornton, FF Michael Oteri, FF James Bancroft, FF/EMT Kevin Farragher, FF/EMT Flanagan
Andover Police Department : Officer Glen Ota
Lawrence General Hospital : EMT Chris Locapo & EMT Kristen Harris
Lawrence Fire Department : Captain James Driscoll and Lieutenant Joseph Murphy
Lawrence Police Department : Officer Leo Silvera
North Andover Fire Department: Jeff Crosby
North Andover Police Department : Officer William Gordon
The February 13th event will begin with a social hour at 6pm. followed by a dinner at 7pm. While uniformed officers are the guests of the Exchange Club, the public is invited for a ticket price of $35.00. Tickets
may be purchased by contacting Sharon Birchall, Event Chairman, at 978 -609-6883 or email at Ladysb57@aol.com.
Tickets may also be purchased by visiting the https://exchangecluboflawrence.com ◊

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover, Massachusetts. He is an author, host of the Paying Attention TV/Radio Program, lectures on media bias and police issues, is a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, and a 1990 Police Survivor. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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